Don’t Tap Out
June 14 | 2020
“Every day you are given opportunities to make the world better, by making yourself a little uncomfortable and asking, ‘who doesn’t have this same freedom or opportunity that I’m enjoying now?’”
Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk about Race
Some of you might be feeling guilted, shamed, or pressured into choosing sides in this “cancel culture.” With so many conflicting perspectives, your primary impulse might be to “tap out” and escape it all. The discomfort is real. But, the discomfort is also important. It’s a good teacher, and it just might make you a better person. Don’t run away.
Some of you might feel like you need to say “blue lives matter” …maybe you know police officers, or you’ve had good interactions with police your whole life. Maybe it just doesn’t seem fair to you that a whole group be stereotyped as “bad,” for the actions of a “few.” I see where you’re coming from. Your experience is valid.
But, your experience is not everyone’s experience; it’s only ONE part of a larger story. It’s only a partial-truth. To claim it is the whole truth or the whole story is to override another person’s experience (in this case, the experience of the entire Black community). You feel protected by police, while another person lives in fear of those same police — THAT is precisely the inequality. That is the injustice.
Some of you might be seeing rioting/looting/chaos in the streets (on the TV), and feel like you need to say “that’s not okay.” After all, how could destruction and violence be productive? I see where you’re coming from. But, I’d ALSO ask you to see the hurt, fear, anger, grief, and DESPERATION fueling those actions (after all, you and I are judging from a pretty safe and comfortable distance).
In the words of Ijeoma Oluo: “If you’ve been privileged enough to not suffer from the cumulative effects of systemic racism and are therefore able to look at racially charged situations one at a time, and then let it go, please recognize that very few people of color are able to enter into discussions on racism with the same freedom” (So You Want to Talk about Race).
If you don’t know the cumulative trauma of generations, do you have the right to invalidate their cries for justice? You might not approve of the “how,” but surely you can see the “why”?!
It’s important to note that the vast majority of demonstrations following George Floyd’s murder have been non-violent and peaceful. So, I’d ask a follow-up: Do you think it’s fair to condemn the whole by the actions of a few…when it applies to certain groups in certain places? Because THAT is inequality too. That’s the cruel double-standard of oppression.
The defense of “blue lives” (the profession) and the fixation on the looting part of the story, RATHER THAN the defense of Black lives (the inescapable, daily experience of their existence), IS TO ENTIRELY MISS THE POINT. It is both short-sighted and incredibly hurtful.
We all — every single one of us — have the opportunity to do better.
If we’d only…
Stop missing the point.
Stop shifting the focus.
Stop reaching for easy answers.
Stop running away from the discomfort.
Stop tapping out.
A low risk way for you to find out what you don't know/build a tolerance for discomfort is to listen to a podcast, watch a movie, read a book.
The book I’ve been citing throughout is a great place to start: So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
If you don’t have time to read, how about a podcast? For faith-based conversation, search for Lisa Sharon Harper, Austin Channing Brown, or Jemar Tisby. For more of an academic/research perspective, search for Ibram X. Kendi.
Visual learner? Watch 13th, Just Mercy, or When They See Us.
Encounter someone else's story, perspective, excruciating experience; I think that's where you start.